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Motivations Behind Volunteering for Online Research Platforms, like StepUp for Dementia Research?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

Just under a third of Australians volunteer[1]. Volunteering benefits both the individual as well as the community.  However, people become involved in volunteering for different reasons. A recent Australian study looked at the motivations and meaning behind volunteering online for science-based research[2]. Specifically, the study looked at the experiences of people who had signed up to StepUp for Dementia Research, an online platform that helps dementia researchers in Australia recruit participants for their studies.

Living by our Values

The researchers had 266 current StepUp for Dementia participants complete a survey with a mix of both tick-box and open-ended questions. The questions covered the individuals’ demographics, volunteering history, motivation, expectations, and wellbeing. The authors analysed the responses for themes, and structured them into five identities expressed by the volunteers’ values and how they made meaning from their involvement. These were:

  1. I am a learner – to seek personal growth
  2. I create impact – to make a difference
  3. I connect with others – to foster new and deeper relationships
  4. I build on familiarity –to build on familiar social institutions such as family, faith and career, that enrich my life
  5. I care about my legacy – to create a better future for others.

How to do it better

The study also identified factors that helped and hindered volunteerism. Moreover, the paper found a disproportionately high participation rate of well-educated Anglo females. The findings helped the authors shape eight recommendations to enhance volunteer motivation. These included providing clearer communication and flexibility in participation, encouraging more cultural and linguistic diversity, showcasing the positive impact of volunteer work, and including educational and learning opportunities.

The study was conducted less than a year after StepUp for Dementia Research was launched. Many of the registered volunteers had not yet had the opportunity to participate in research on the platform, and thus commented on research inside and outside of the science-based research. Nevertheless, the paper offers helpful guidance on improving volunteer wellbeing and engagement in the promising area of online science-based research volunteering.